Controversial vaping regulation bill lands on DeSantis’ desk, creating a political conundrum for the governor

Certain fruity and sweet e-cigarette products are temporarily banned but many popular options remain legal. Critics say the Trump Administration broke its promise to protect teens by banning all flavored vape products. Getty Images

UPDATE: As of 8:52 p.m. Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed CS/CS/CS/SB 810, saying that banning certain vaping flavors would lead to higher cigarette use among consumers and negatively affect Florida businesses.

“Reducing the use of all nicotine-related products, including vaping, among our youth is an important goal, but this will not be achieved by eliminating legal products for adults and by devastating the small businesses who provide these adults with reduced risk alternatives to cigarettes,” DeSantis said in the veto.

Advocates of the Florida vaping industry and its opponents are waiting for a decision on a controversial vaping regulation bill that would ban the use of most flavors in nicotine products.

And that decision may become a political one for Gov. Ron DeSantis. Already, both sides of the debate over vaping regulations are saying they won’t support DeSantis if he makes the wrong move.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The governor has until September 19 to decide the fate of the vaping regulation legislation (CS/CS/CS/SB 810) that was sent to his desk late last week. The Florida Legislature had already passed the bill.

Supporters of the legislation want to curb teen vaping use by banning flavors that appeal teens and young adults, such as fruity or dessert flavors. Under the bill, only nicotine products with flavors approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would be permitted.

But many in the industry fear that, should DeSantis sign the bill into law, thousands of Floridians will lose their jobs and the vaping industry will be severely impacted economically, as studies show.

During the 2020 legislative session in March, The Vapor Technology Association shared a press release with the Phoenix citing a study that says about 79.4% of the vapor products sold contain flavors other than tobacco and menthol.

The study cited was conducted by John Dunham & Associates, an economic research firm in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The regulations are unpopular with the industry and many of its consumers, with many urging DeSantis to veto the bill.

Grover Norquist, president of conservative advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, sent a letter to DeSantis in March, as the bill gained traction in the legislative session. Norquist noted that DeSantis may face a loss of political support if he signs the bill into law.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 900,000 adult vapers in the Sunshine State, 740,000 of which may determine who they vote for in the next election on questions surrounding vaping above any other issue,” the letter said.

He then referenced a study from McLaughlin & Associates in October 2019 which found many supporters would be less likely to vote to reelect Donald Trump if he pushed strict vape flavor bans.

“That survey showed that 98 percent of Florida vapers oppose the flavor ban in SB 810, with 96 percent of Republicans and 95 percent of Independent vapers saying that they are ‘less likely’ to vote for a Florida candidate if they support a flavor ban,” Norquist wrote.

Some members of Florida’s vaping industry are proving Norquist’s point.

The Florida Smoke Free Association, a non-profit advocacy group for the industry, has been vocally opposed to the proposed legislation and have threatened to no longer support DeSantis if he signs the bill into law.

Tuesday, in response to a tweet from the official twitter account for the Republican Party of Florida, the Florida Smoke Free Association said that “…we won’t continue supporting @GovRonDeSantis and @realDonaldTrump if SB 810 becomes law.

The Phoenix reached out to the Florida Smoke Free Association to learn what kind of support, financial or otherwise, would be at risk if DeSantis signs the bill into law. As of reporting, they have not responded.

Some consumers say that flavors in vaping products help them curb their addiction to cigarettes, but the American Heart Association says that “e-cigarettes should not be promoted as a safe alternative to smoking,” saying that the long term effects of vape products are not yet fully understood.

The larger concerns come from attempting to combat teen nicotine use, and the bill has received support from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Last year, vaping-related illnesses and deaths rose in the United States due to informal retailers cutting vaping liquids with vitamin E acetate.

According to a written statement from Tobacco Free Florida, 25.6% of Florida high school students and 9.1% of Florida middle school kids use e-cigarettes, based on 2019 data.

“We are concerned about the potential for a new generation of youth addicted to nicotine,” the organization said in the written statement, “and it’s important for our community to know that nicotine is highly addictive and there is no safe use of nicotine by youth or young adults.”